UNESCO Confirms Auschwitz Convent is on Site Protected by Treaty

A United Nations agency has confirmed that the building now used as a convent on the grounds of the former Auschwitz death camp is one that Poland pledged to maintain unaltered when it applied for the inclusion of Auschwitz on the World Heritage List.

The World Jewish Congress reported Thursday that it has received documentary proof, accompanied by photographs and a schematic map of the site, from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In releasing the documents, WJC Vice President Kalman Sultanik said they made clear that the building taken over for use as a convent was “unequivocally part of the protected site of the Auschwitz complex, and its alteration is a flagrant violation of the UNESCO convention.”

UNESCO adopted the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1972 to preserve international sites “of outstanding interest.” Sites to be protected are included on the World Heritage List.

Poland ratified the convention in 1976 and applied to UNESCO three years later to add Auschwitz to the list.

In the 26-page application, which was provided to the WJC, Poland pledged “maintenance of the condition and original character of the entire complex.”

The accompanying map removes any doubt that the building used as a convent is part of the Auschwitz complex. Photographs show it prior to takeover by Carmelite nuns. A caption identifies the building as the place were “the personal effects” of inmates taken to the gas chambers were stored.

At a meeting in Paris last week, WJC officials succeeded in convincing the director general of UNESCO, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, that the convent is a violation of the convention.

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